Kurt Allison lost more than $70,000 worth of gear in the Nashville flood of 2010. The lead guitarist for Jason Aldean’s band had more than 10 guitars – not to mention a wealth of amps and some pedal boards – stored at Soundcheck Nashville, a music gear storage facility close to the Cumberland River that was obliterated by the flood. As part of “The Big Gear Giveback,” the Nashville Musicians Union, NAMM, ASCAP, SESAC, Musicares and Next BIG Nashville held a showcase at the Hard Rock Café and reached out to manufacturers during last summer’s NAMM conference. Santa Cruz Guitars donated a custom DH Model (Herringbone Dreadnought) to the Nashville Musicians Union, who in turn gave the guitar to Kurt. We spoke to Kurt about his flood experience and new instrument.
Were you in town when the flood happened?
We were actually in Canada. I remember talking to my wife on the phone. She said it was raining really hard and there were tornadoes. We had heard that it was getting worse and worse. It was really surreal. We were out of the country watching the stuff online and seeing the visuals. We felt even more helpless than we would have otherwise. We flew in right over Opryland two days later. The plane was silent. It had been hard to be away.
Everyone in the band was trying to get a hold of the people in charge over there at Soundcheck. By the time we’d even gotten back they’d shut off that whole area. They weren’t letting anybody close to the building. Of course, your immediate concern was: Is your family okay? Are your friends okay? Is your house okay? The things that really matter. Yeah, the gear is on your mind but it was secondary at best.
What kind of gear did you lose?
All of my in-town studio gear was in a locker. That included six or seven different amps, probably 10 to 12 guitars, of course two different pedal boards. Anything I would use for studio work, and back up stuff for the Aldean tour. It was about $70,000.
Were these guitars that you’d had for a while?
One was the first guitar I ever bought. Not that it was a collector’s item, but there was a lot of sentimental value. I’m not a collector. The guitars that really matter to me are the ones you can put to a time in your life. You can replace them and buy some guitars that are quote unquote collectibles. The first guitar you bought, the guitar that was given to you by your dad, that kind of thing is irreplaceable.
But your house and family were okay?
I can’t stress that enough even during that time. Everybody in the band was very blessed. Even in those first couple weeks, losing the gear does affect you. But you know something deeper is going on when people’s real lives are hurt and being put on hold. It was hard to feel too bad at the time about a guitar when you saw people who didn’t have a place to live.
Have you ever played a Santa Cruz guitar before?
I haven’t, and to be honest I wasn’t overly familiar with them. The only acoustic guitars I’d played before were either Guilds or Gibsons. They are more workhorse guitars. I’m obviously not dissing any of the guitars I had. They’re just solid guitars.
But when you pick up the Santa Cruz and play it you know you’re dealing with a whole different instrument. The sound acoustically is much richer. I wasn’t used to that, having that good of wood and richness in the sound of it. I was actually really stunned that it sounded like that. They’re beautiful. My first impression was much more than I had anticipated.
Will you play it live with Jason Aldean?
I only play two songs in the set acoustically with Jason. One of them is “The Truth,” one of his No. 1 songs. I’m definitely going to bring it out. I haven’t had a chance to yet.
How do you feel the Nashville area has rebounded since the flood?
I think that, initially, everyone would say how proud they are of the Nashville community, about how much support there was in the city that went out to people affected. I remember Anderson Cooper did his thing when he finally came to Nashville. That was one of the things that even he mentioned. It made me proud to be from here, that there was so much support. I think it’s been ongoing. A month or so after the initial hit and wave, you wonder if that support still comes in. But I still see it.
It’s like this: Dave Pomeroy calls me from the Nashville Musicians Union with this guitar. He knew that I was affected. He knew that I could use an acoustic guitar. He reached out to me and that touched me; it really did. It makes me want to go out and help my neighbor any way that I can. I think that’s just part of what Nashville is and always has been. It’s a big city, but yet at the heart of it, it’s still a very small city – and that’s cool. And I think people try to keep that part of it intact.